Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma Definitions

Glossary terms, history, people and definitions about Lean and Six Sigma



5S represents words that describe the steps of a workplace organization process. It is often written as 5S workplace organization to provide some context relative to alternative uses of 5S.

The original Japanese words are listed, along with the English equivalent words in parenthesis.

  1. Seiri (Sort)
  2. Seiton (Straighten, Set)
  3. Seiso (Shine, Sweep)
  4. Seiketsu (Standardize)
  5. Shitsuke (Sustain)

In simple terms, the five S methodology helps a workplace remove items that are no longer needed (sort), organize the items to optimize efficiency and flow (straighten), clean the area in order to more easily identify problems (shine), implement color coding and labels to stay consistent with other areas (standardize) and develop behaviors that keep the workplace organized over the long term (sustain).

It is also referred to as 6S or 5S+S (adding Safety or Security) or even 7s (adding Spirit and Safety). Not to be confused with Six Sigma (often written as 6s).

5S is based on the CANDO system developed by Henry Ford in the early 20th century.

Watch this video, which explains the steps, and provides video time lapse of how a healthcare organization performed their 5S event

Here is a breakdown of each ‘S’

1. Sort (seiri) – Distinguishing between necessary and unnecessary things, and getting rid of what you do not need

  • Remove items not used in area – outdated materials, broken equipment, redundant equipment, files on the computer, measurements which you no longer use
  • Ask staff to tag all items which they don’t think are needed – this improves understanding about need and use
  • Classify all equipment and materials by frequency of use to help decide if it should be removed – place ‘Red Tag’ on items to be removed
  • Establish a ‘holding area’ for items that are difficult to classify – hold item for allotted period to enable others not on 5S team to review
what is 5S sorting example

2. Straighten (seiton) – The practice of orderly storage so the right item can be picked efficiently (without waste) at the right time, easy to access for everyone. A place for everything and everything in its place.

  • Identify and allocate a place for all the materials needed for your work
  • Assign fixed places and fixed quantity
  • Make it compact
  • Place heavy objects at a height where they are easy to pick from
  • Decide how things should be put away, and obey those rules
5s tool shadow board

3. Shine (seiso) – Create a clean worksite without garbage, dirt and dust, so problems can be more easily identified (leaks, spills, excess, damage, etc)

  • Identify root causes of dirtiness, and correct process
  • Only one work activity on a workspace at any given time
  • Keep tools and equipment clean and in top condition, ready for use at any time
  • Cleanliness should be a daily activity – at least 5 minutes per day
  • Use chart with signatures/initials shows that the action or review has taken place
  • Ensure proper lighting – it can be hard to see dirt and dust
5 s lean shine sweep before after

4. Standardize (seiketsu) – Setting up standards for a neat, clean, workplace

  • Standardization of best practices through ‘visual management’
  • Make abnormalities visible to management
  • Keep each area consistent with one another
  • Standards make it easy to move workers into different areas
  • Create process of how to maintain the standard with defined roles and responsibilities
  • Make it easy for everyone to identify the state of normal or abnormal conditions – place photos on the walls, to provide visual reminder
5s lean visual color coding standardize

5. Sustain (shitsuke) – Implementing behaviors and habits to maintain the established standards over the long term, and making the workplace organization the key to managing the process for success

  • Toughest phase is to Sustain – many fall short of this goal
  • Establish and maintain responsibilities – requires leader commitment to follow through
  • Every one sticks to the rules and makes it a habit
  • Participation of everyone in developing good habits and buy-in
  • Regular audits and reviews
  • Get to root cause of issues
  • Aim for higher 5S levels – continuous improvement
5s before after sweep shine

Other Versions of 5S

Originally, the technique was called ‘4S’, with Set and Shine combined. However, Toyota and most other companies use the 5S as a standard.

Other improvement experts like Paul Akers have promoted the use of 3S on a daily basis in his book “2 Second Lean,” to focus on Sort, Sweep and Standardize, and not focus as much on straighten or sustain. He credits Hoks in Japan with teaching him this approach, as they felt 5S was too complicated.

The other options to include with 5S are Safety, Security and Spirit.

Safety: Safety is often said that it is implied within 5S that everything should be done with safety as the number one priority, but to ensure that is the case, Safety is added as an additional S. It is particularly prominent in manufacturing, warehouses, heavy equipment, construction, healthcare and laboratory settings, and in other contexts where potentially dangerous equipment or substances may be involved, and less prominent in office settings.

Spirit: To ensure that the focus of 5S is to make it easier for the workers, Spirit is added to remind people that it should be fun, and that creativity is key to coming up with new ideas and better ways to implement 5S. Without engaged workers, the 5S approach will not last or be successful.

Isolocity offers an example of how sustaining 5S in the workplace can be automated through software.

In Gemba Kaizen, author Masaaki Imai mentions another method, called 5 C’s (or five-C’s):

  • Clear out
  • Configure
  • Clean and check
  • Conform
  • Custom and practice

Electronic (Digital 5S) Methods

A newer approach to 5S is using the methods to better manage the digital world (files, shared drives, networks, servers and more).

Check out this free short course, called “Electronic 5S” to learn more

Templates, Tools and Guides

Download free 5S e-book from Creative Safety Supply

See something you like? Use code “BPI” to save 10% off any purchase

5S at Home

5S also works well in the home. A popular method is the KonMari method, developed by Marie Kondo. Here are some resources about her.


Want to get a broad Lean training online that is affordable? Check out OpEx Learning’s Lean Fundamentals course, which includes a section on 5S, along with 8 Wastes, Kaizen, A3 Thinking, Value, Value Stream Mapping, One Piece Flow vs Batching, Pull and Kanban, Takt Time, Root Cause Analysis, Standard Work, Ideal and Future States, and much more! Note: This is an affiliate link.

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Support and Resources

You can also find a local organizer to help you through the process in your personal life, through the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) >>>

You might also check out examples of home organization at LeanSixSigmaHomes.com